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The Chord Cookbook Compendium 2008 Matthieu Brandt

Chord Harmony
A song is written in a certain key.
This key is the home base of the scale of notes that are being used in a song.
A scale is number of notes, stacked in a row in order of pitch from low to high.
A list of all possible notes we can play :

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1

All notes C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C

Enharmonic Db Eb Gb Ab Bb
names*

*
Distance between each tone = note (1 fret). Enharmonic names
E.g. Distance between C and C# = note (1 fret). these notes can have two names:
Distance between C and D = 1 whole note (2 frets) # means raised with note (C# is a raised C)
Distance between D and F# = 2 whole notes (4 frets) b means lowered with note (Db is a lowered D)

E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E
Gb Ab Bb Db Eb
Each scale is a subset of all these notes. Scales are made with a formula.
The scales we use mostly consist of 7 notes, with a set distance between each note.
This distance can be note (1 fret), a whole note (2 frets), 1 notes (3 frets), etc.
A major scale (a.k.a. an ionic scale) has the formula 2212221.
This means that the distance between the first tone and the second tone is 2 x note = 1 whole note (2
frets).
the distance between the second and third tone is 2 x note = 1 whole note (2 frets).
the distance between the third and fourth note is 1 x note (1 fret). Etc.

You can create a major scale on every note on the fretboard.


If you start with a certain note and follow the formula, youll always end up with a major scale.
The note you start on is called the key.
E.g. if you are playing in the key of G major the notes (and the distance between them) would be :

G A B C D E F# G
2 2 1 2 2 2 1

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The chords we use in Pop and Rock music come from the major (Ionian) scale or one of the Minor scales
(Aeolian, Dorian, Phrygian). Well first take a look at chords derived from the Ionian Major scale

In Western Pop, Rock, Blues, Funk, etc. music we use what is called tertiary harmony.
This means that most common chords are stacks of third intervals; a major third (4x note or 4 frets) or a
minor third (3x note or 3 frets).

The chords we can build from an Ionian major scale can be found by taking each of the notes of the scale as the
root and using the formula 135. You skip a note up from the root (nr. 2) and add the one you land on (nr.3).
You do the same again, skipping nr.4 and adding the next (nr.5).

This will result in a chord with tertiary harmony; major chord and minor chords.

If you write down the scale, start at a note (tonic) and skip every other note, you end up with a chord.
E.g. C=CDEFGABC. Start at C (=1). The other chord notes are E(=3) and G (=5).
Start at D (=1). The other chord notes are F(=3) and G (=5).
Start at G (=1). The other chord notes are B(=3) and D (=5).
Note that when we calculate the 3 and 5, we do this relative to each of the tonics we chose (=1).

Depending on the distance in notes between the 1 and the 3,


we end up with a major chord (4 x note) or with a minor chord (3 x note).
If we calculate the chords for each scale, we end up with this chord table:

Key
I ii iii IV V vi vii
B C#m D#m E F# G#m A#dim
E F#m G#m A B C#m D#dim
A Bm C#m D E F#m G#dim
D Em F#m G A Bm C#dim
G Am Bm C D Em F#dim
C Dm Em F G Am Bdim
F Gm Am Bb C Dm Edim
Bb Cm Dm Eb F Gm Adim
Eb Fm Gm Ab Bb Cm Ddim
Ab Bbm Cm Db Eb Fm Gdim
Db Ebm Fm G Ab Bbm Cdim

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Each Major Key has 7 notes and thus 7 chords.


Major chords are notated with capital Roman Numerals (I,IV,V).
Minor chords with small Roman Numerals (ii,iii,vi).
In a major key the chord on the 7th degree vii is never used; you can disregard it.
This is because the 5th of that chord (formula 135 on the 7th note of the scale) is lowered, which creates an
unstable chord.

In a major key the I chord is called the Tonic, the IV chord is called the Subdominant and the V chord is called
the Dominant. These are the three most important chords in a major key. These chords are Major.
The other three chords on the second, third and sixth degree are used as substitutes for the I,IV and V.
They are Minor chords.

Due to the notes in the chords the I chord can be substituted by the vii chord (e.g. C Am )
the IV chord can be substituted by the ii chord (e.g. F Dm )
the V chord can be substituted by the iii chord (e.g. G Em )
This can be done because these substitute chords have 2 notes in common with the chord they replace.

Chord Notes in Chord Substitute Chord Notes in Chord

C CEG Am ACE

F FAC Dm DFA

G GBD Em EGB

If a song only uses the 3note chords (triads) from the left six columns of the chord table, the resulting sound
can be described as folk, country, etc.
This is because there is a limited amount of tension in the chord progression; all the notes in all the chords
come from one key and we have not added any extensions to the chord.

Each of these chords has certain character which stems from the type of triad.
A major chord has the root, a major third and a perfect fifth.
Its chord formula is 135.
A minor chord has a root, a flatted third and a perfect fifth.
Its formula is 1b35.
The unstable chord built on the 7th note (degree) has a flatted third and a flatted fifth.
The chord formula for this chord is 1b3b5.

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Chord extensions

On top of the 3 note chords with the formulas 135 and 1b35 you can add notes.
The notes are called Extensions. They can give a chord more color.
These notes are added to the chord formula.

The most common extension is adding the 7th note in the scale up from each of the notes in the scale.
The formula we used to build chords on top of the scale notes was 135.
Skip one note up from the 5th note in the chord and add the one you land on.
The formula will become 1357 .

If we change the formula of the triad 135 to 1357 we end up with these chords:

Key
I maj7 iim7 iiim7 IVmaj7 V7 vim7 viim7b5
Bmaj7 C#m7 D#m7 Emaj7 F#7 G#m7 A#m7b5
Emaj7 F#m7 G#m7 Amaj7 B7 C#m7 D#m7b5
Amaj7 Bm7 C#m7 Dmaj7 E7 F#m7 G#m7b5
Dmaj7 Em7 F#m7 Gmaj7 A7 Bm7 C#m7b5
Gmaj7 Am7 Bm7 Cmaj7 D7 Em7 F#m7b5
Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7 Am7 Bm7b5
Fmaj7 Gm7 Am7 Bbmaj7 C7 Dm7 Em7b5
Bbmaj7 Cm7 Dm7 Ebmaj7 F7 Gm7 Am7b5
Ebmaj7 Fm7 Gm7 Abmaj7 Bb7 Cm7 Dm7b5
Abmaj7 Bbm7 Cm7 Dbmaj7 Eb7 Fm7 Gm7b5
Dbmaj7 Ebm7 Fm7 Gmaj7 Ab7 Bbm7 Cm7b5

Note that we are remaining within the scale.


Each of these chords has a color.
This color can be defined as smooth when youre adding a major 7th to a major chord.
You can add tension to a major chord when you add the flatted 7th to it. Etc.

If you are in the key of G for instance, the notes are :

G A B C D E F# G
2 2 1 2 2 2 1

Building a 4note chord with the formula 1357 would get you a chord with the notes G,B,D,F# .
Because the distance between the tonic G and the added note F# (the 7th from the scale) is 11 x note we call
this chord a major 7th chord or maj7 or 7.
The chord we end up with on the G tonic is a Gmaj7 .

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Note: the maj in major 7th refers to the 7th note. It has nothing to do with if the chord is major or minor. A
chord is major or minor depending on the third of the chord.
Which means that there is actually a chord like Ammaj7.
Which is an A minor chord with a C note in it, which is the flatted 3rd
(or 3 frets) above the tonic
and a major seventh, which is a G# (= 11 frets above the tonic).

If we remain in the key and build 4note chords with the 1357 method we end up
with 4 different chords, each with their own chord formula:

maj7th chords the triad is major and the distance between the tonic and 7th note is 11 frets
Chord Formula: 1 3 5 7
m7 chords the triad is minor and the distance between the tonic and 7th note is 10 frets
Chord Formula: 1 b3 5 b7
7 chord the triad is major and the distance between the tonic and 7th note is 10 frets
Chord Formula: 1 3 5 b7
m7b5 chord not used in a major key: triad is minor, the fifth is lowered
and the distance between the tonic and the 7th note is 10 frets.
Chord Formula: 1 b3 b5 b7

In the key of G this results in:


Gmaj7 Am7 Bm7 Cmaj7 D7 Em7 F#m7b5

For 4note chords the same rules for substitution apply:


Due to the notes in the chords the Imaj7 chord can be substituted by the viim7 chord (e.g. Cmaj7 Am7 )
the IVmaj7 chord can be substituted by the iim7 chord (e.g. Fmaj7 Dm7 )
the V7 chord can be substituted by the iiim7 chord (e.g. G7 Em7 )
This can be done because these substitute chords have 3 notes in common with the chord they replace. You
can also substitute these chords by the associated triads, e.g. Cmaj7 Am .

Chord Notes in Chord Substitute Chord Notes in Chord

C maj7 CEGB Am7 ACEG

F maj7 FACE Dm7 DFAC

G7 GBDF Em7 EGBD

Songs with 4note chords have more color. Modern pop songs, jazz and blues use these chords.

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Chord Formulas

Each chord has a chord formula. The sound a certain chord has stems from this formula.
Two chords with the same formula, built on different roots, will have the same character / color / flavor.

Because we mostly use tertiary harmony in Western Pop and Rock music most chord will have chord formulas
like 135 or 1b35 or 1357, etc. But other formulas are possible too, each resulting in their own specific
sound.

A chord with the formula 135b79 is called a dominant ninth chord.


A chord with the formula 125 is a sus2 chord and the chord formula 145 results in a sus4 chord.

The numbers in these formulas refer to the distance between the root of the chord and the note you add. The
number 4 for instance refers to the distance of a perfect fourth which is 5 frets.
Weve seen that the number 3 means the chord has a major third in it, meaning 4 frets up from the root.

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This is a table of the numbers, the intervals they result in and the name.

Number in Chord Distance to Root in Notes Distance to Root in frets Name of Interval
Formula

1 0 0 Unison

b2 1 Minor Second

2 1 2 Major Second

b3 1 3 Minor Third

3 2 4 Major Third

4 2 5 Perfect Fourth

#4 / b5 3 6 Augmented Fourth
Diminished Fifth

5 3 7 Perfect Fifth

#5 / b6 4 8 Augmented Fifth
Minor Sixth

6 4 9 Major Sixth

b7 5 10 Minor Seventh

7 5 11 Major Seventh

8 6 12 Octave

b9 6 13 Minor Ninth

9 7 14 Major Ninth

#9 7 15 Augmented Ninth

11 8 17 Eleventh

#11 9 18 Augmented Eleventh

b13 10 20 Diminished Thirteenth

13 10 21 Thirteenth

#13 11 22 Augmented Thirteenth

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Formulas for Chord Families

Adding any one of these notes to the chord formula will influence the sound of the chord.
The most important chord formulas can be divided into three families of chords ;
major, minor and dominant.
Well also include some chord formulas that are harder to categorize.

The most common chord formulas and their names are listed here.

Chord Symbol (Major Chords) Name Chord Formula

Major 135

6 Major 6th 1356

Maj7, 7 Major 7th 1357

9 Major 9th 13579

add 9 Major Added 9th 1359

6/9 Major 6 / 9th 13569

7/6 Major 7th / 6th 13567

7/ #11 Major 7th Sharp Eleventh 1357#11

13 Major 13th 1357913

Note: Whenever the number 7 shows up in a chord formula, one needs to be careful.
In the formulas above the 7 means the major seventh; 11 frets up from the root.
In the notation C7 the 7th is actually a flatted seventh; 10 frets up from the root.
The chord formula for a C7 = 135b7

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Chord Symbol (Minor Chords) Name Chord Formula

m Minor 1b35

m6 Minor 6th 1b356

m7 Minor 7th 1b35b7

m9 Minor 9th 1b35b79

m 11 Minor 11th 1b35b7911

m7/11 Minor 7 / 11th 1b35b711

m add9th Minor add 9th 1b359

m 7 Minor Major 7th 1b357

m6/9 Minor 6th / 9th 1b3569

Chord Symbol (Dominant Chords) Name Chord Formula

7 Dominant 7th 135b7

7/6 Dominant 7th 6th 1356b7

7 sus4 Dominant 7th sus4 145b7

7/11 Dominant 7th /11th 135b711

9 Dominant 9th 135b79

11 Dominant 11th 135b7911

13 Dominant 13th 135b7913

7b9 Dominant 7th flat 9th 1b35b7b9

7#9 Dominant 7th sharp 9th 1b35b7#9

7b13 Dominant 7th flat 13th 135b79b13

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Chord Symbol (Other Chords) Name Chord Formula

dim Diminished Triad 1b3b5

aug Augmented Triad 13#5

dim 7, o Diminished 7th 1b3b5bb7

aug 7 Augmented 7th 13#5b7

sus2 Suspended 2nd 125

sus4 Suspended 4th 145

m7b5 , Half Diminished 1b3b5b7

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Chord Progressions
Chord progressions consist of a number of chords, taken from one or more scales.
The I, IV and V chord are the most important chords in a major key.
The others can be added for variation.

In pop songs the chords can move freely from one to the other, with a few rules of thumb:
generally the last chord in a song is the tonic / key in which the song is written*
the strongest chord progression is from the V chord to the I chord
if you add notes to a chord from a different scale, youll be playing a chord from a different scale
adding chords from a different scale adds tension to a progression

* Were not looking at songs that change key (modulate) just yet.

The VI progression in the key of G would be a DG or a D7G or a DGmaj7, etc.


The relationship the tonics of these chords have, is the bases for this tension/resolution.
Even a DmG or DmG are relatively strong chord progressions.

The strength of the V I progression and the amount of tension / release depends on the types of chords
involved.
Generally a major chord as a V chord wants to resolve more than a minor.
This makes the D G a stronger progression than a Dm G.
And a dominant 7th chord as a V chord wants to resolve even more.
This makes a D7 G an even stronger progression.

Anytime you have a VI chord progression, youll have some tension / resolution.
The distance between the tonic of the V chord and the tonic of the I chord is 5 x note (5 frets).
Anytime there is a distance of 5 x note between the roots of two chords, we have a strong chord
progression.

In a major scale 5 of the 6 chords we use in pop music can function as a V chord for some I chord.
And even the m7b5 chord on the 7th degree can function as a V chord

The key of G has the notes G, A, B, C , D, E and F#.


In the key of G the distance between the G note and the C note is 5 x note
the A note and the D note is 5 x note
the B note and the E note is 5 x note
the D note and the G note is 5 x note
the E note and the A note is 5 x note.
the F# note and the B note is 5 x note

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Any progression between chords that are built on a pair of these roots (GC,AD,BE,DG,EA and F#B) will have
a strong tension/resolution .

This means that in the key of G: the G wants to resolve to a C


the Am wants to resolve to a D
the Bm wants to resolve to an Em
the D wants to resolve to a G
the Em wants to resolve to an Am
the F#m7b5 wants to resolve to a Bm
(never used; if used the progression becomes F#m Bm)

In general this means that: the I chord wants to resolve to the IV chord
the iim wants to resolve to the V chord
the iiim wants to resolve to the vim chord
the V chord wants to resolve to the I chord
the vim chord wants to resolve to the iim chord
the viim chord wants to resolve to the iiim chord

Both the IIV progression and the VI progression use major chords.
The first chord being major makes for a stronger tension/resolution than if the first chord would be minor.

If we change the minor chord into major in one of the strong progressions described above, well be creating
an even stronger progression.
To change a minor chord to major we need to raise the flatted 3rd of that chord by note. This makes the
distance between the tonic and the third of the chord 4 x note (4 frets). The chord will become a major
chord.

In the key of G this would mean:

Chord Name Notes in chord Flatted 3rd Raise the 3rd Result Name Chord
iim Am ACE C C# A C# E A II
iiim Bm B D F# D D# B D# F# B III
vim Em EGB G G# E G# B E VI
viim ** F# m F# A C# A A# F# A# C# F# VII
th
** The dim chord on the 7 degree can be replaced by
a regular minor chord in these cases by raising the
th th
flatted 5 to a perfect 5 .
Because this introduces another note from a different
scale, it is only applicable in a VI progression.

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In a major key, changing the minor chords to major is a common alteration:


one of the minor chords will be replaced by its major counterpart.
Although often used in a VI progression they dont have to resolve to their I chord.

Changing the minor chords into major adds notes from a different scale.
This makes for a stronger need to resolve.

Examples:
GCADG is a stronger progression than G C Am D G
GECDG has a major chord substitute (key of G holds an Em) that is not part of a VI
progression. It still sounds good.

When this chord substitution is used, the melody/solo needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Most often on the chord that is made major, the melody cant hold the flatted third of that chord anymore,
because the chord in the backing contains the major third.

This type of chord substitution is often used to modulate (temporarily) to a different key.

Examples:
G C D G E Am The first four chords are in the key of G. The E makes for a strong
tension / resolution to Am. If the chord progression stays on Am
for a few bars, youll start to feel the Am as the I chord. The chord
progression has modulated.

Major chord replaced by its dominant chord


Anytime we see a V I chord progression we can make the tension / resolution stronger by making the chord
dominant. This means we add the flatted 7th to the chord.
This can be done with any major chord, even the ones that were substitutes for a minor chord.

Examples:
G G7 C is stronger than G G C
G C D7 G is stronger than G C D G
G C E7 Am is stronger than G C E Am which in turn is stronger than G C Em Am

This flatted 7th that is added to the chord is often not in the original key.
Notes that are not from the key a chord is in, will give the chord tension. The chord will want to resolve more
eagerly.

In the key of G, the chord G7 will have an added F note. There is an F# in the key, not an F.
The chord gets (more) tension and will want to resolve in a V I progression to the C chord.

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Adding chords from the minor key with the same root
Modern pop, folk and rock music is rooted in the blues.
Blues is a mixture of major and minor keys.

A clich blues progression is 12 bars long and uses three major chords, almost always played as dominant 7th
chords, e.g. G7. These are the I7, IV7 and V7 chords.
In a major key we only have a dominant 7th chord on the V chord, e.g. D7 in the key of G major.
This means that on the I and IV chord, were introducing notes that are not part of the major scale.

In a blues in the key of G we would play a G7, which has an F note in it, and a C7, which has a Bb note in it.
Both the F and Bb are not part of the G major scale.

On top of that were playing melodies that use notes out of the G minor pentatonic scale.
Its a minor scale (meaning it has a flatted third in it) and it only has five notes instead of the seven a regular
major or minor scale has (penta is Greek for five).

Because many pop and rock songs use blues elements, well see chords out of the minor scale with the same
root show up in a major chord progression.
In the key of G major well encounter chords out of the key of G minor.

The key of Gm has the same chords as the key of Bb major (see diagram section Chords in Minor Keys).

Key of G G Am Bm C D Em F#dim G
Key of Bb Bb Cm Dm Eb F Gm Adim Bb
Key of Gm Gm Adim Bb Cm Dm Eb F Gm

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If we compare these keys and study which chords can be added to the major key out of the minor key, we end
up with:

Gm not used often, because this means a modulation from major to minor
Adim not used
Bb this is the bIII major chord in relation to the key of G major
Cm this is the IVm chord in relation to the key of G major; not often used, has a
very sad effect
Dm this is the Vm chord in relation to the key of G major; not often used, has a
sad effect.
Eb this is the bVI major chord in relation to the key of G major
F this is the bVII major chord in relation to the key of G major

The result is that we can add the bIII, bVI and bVII chord to a major key to give the chord progression a rocky,
bluesy sound.
To get this weve used the chords out of the minor scale with the same root
and added them to the major scale

In modern pop / rock music we dont often play extensions on these chords .
If we do play them they are also taken out of the minor scale, so bIII7, bVI7 and bVII7 .

Borrowing these chords from the minor scale with the same root results in playing in mixed mode.

VII dim chord altered

The 7th degree of a major scale is a diminished triad or (in its 4 note form) a m7b5 chord.
We can alter that chord to a regular minor by raising the flatted fifth of the chord to a perfect fifth.

In the key of G this would mean changing the F#dim to an Fm.


The 4note version would be an F#m7.

And because we can replace any minor chord in a major key by its major counterpart or the dominant of that
chord with the same root, we can also add the VII major chord and the VII dominant chord to the mix of usable
chord in a major key.
These latter substitutions can be done, because the VII chord can function as a temporary I chord in a
progression to the IIIm chord.

In the key of G we would replace the F#m by the F# and / or the F#7.

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Table for Chord options in a major key (triads)


Key Mixed Mode Min Maj Maj Min Dim Min
I ii iii IV V vi vii bIII bVI bVII II III VI iv v vii
B C#m D# E F# G#m A#dim D G A C# D# G# Em F#m A#m
E F#m G#m A B C#m D#dim G C D F# G# C# Am Bm D#m
A Bm C#m D E F#m G#dim C F G B C# F# Dm Em G#m
D Em F#m G A Bm C#dim F Bb C E F# B Gm Am C#m
G Am Bm C D Em F#dim Bb Eb F A B E Cm Dm F#m
C Dm Em F G Am Bdim Eb Ab Bb D E A Fm Gm Bm
F Gm Am Bb C Dm Edim Ab Db Eb G A D Bbm Cm Em
Bb Cm Dm Eb F Gm Adim Db Gb Ab C D G Ebm Fm Am
Eb Fm Gm Ab Bb Cm Ddim Gb B Db F G C Abm Bbm Dm
Ab Bbm Cm Db Eb Fm Gdim B E Gb Bb C F Dbm Ebm Gm
Db Ebm Fm G Ab Bbm Cdim E A B Eb F Bb Gm Abm Cm

Table for Chord options in a major key (4note chords)


Key Mixed Mode Min Dom Maj Min DimMaj
I maj7 iim7 iiim7 IVmaj7 V7 vim7 viim7b5 bIII bVI bVII II7 III7 VI7 iv7 v7 VII / VII7
Bmaj7 C#m7 D#m7 Emaj7 F#7 G#m7 A#m7b5 D G A C#7 D#7 G#7 Em7 F#m7 A# / A#7
Emaj7 F#m7 G#m7 Amaj7 B7 C#m7 D#m7b5 G C D F#7 G#7 C#7 Am7 Bm7 D# / D#7
Amaj7 Bm7 C#m7 Dmaj7 E7 F#m7 G#m7b5 C F G B7 C#7 F#7 Dm7 Em7 G# / G#7
Dmaj7 Em7 F#m7 Gmaj7 A7 Bm7 C#m7b5 F Bb C E7 F#7 B7 Gm7 Am7 C# / C#7
Gmaj7 Am7 Bm7 Cmaj7 D7 Em7 F#m7b5 Bb Eb F A7 B7 E7 Cm7 Dm7 F# / F#7
Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7 Am7 Bm7b5 Eb Ab Bb D7 E7 A7 Fm7 Gm7 B / B7
Fmaj7 Gm7 Am7 Bbmaj7 C7 Dm7 Em7b5 Ab Db Eb G7 A7 D7 Bbm7 Cm7 E / E7
Bbmaj7 Cm7 Dm7 Ebmaj7 F7 Gm7 Am7b5 Db Gb Ab C7 D7 G7 Ebm7 Fm7 A / A7
Ebmaj7 Fm7 Gm7 Abmaj7 Bb7 Cm7 Dm7b5 Gb B Db F7 G7 C7 Abm7 Bbm7 D / D7
Abmaj7 Bbm7 Cm7 Dbmaj7 Eb7 Fm7 Gm7b5 B E Gb Bb7 C7 F7 Dbm7 Ebm7 G / G7
Dbmaj7 Ebm7 Fm7 Gmaj7 Ab7 Bbm7 Cm7b5 E A B Eb7 F7 Bb7 Gm7 Abm7 C / C7

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This is a list of all the chords you can build with notes from the Ionian Major scales.
E.g. : C major scale: C,D,E,F,G,A and B . Chords in C Ionian: C,Dm,Em,F,G,Am and Bdim.

Key (major)
I ii iii IV V vi vii
B C#m D#m E F# G#m A#dim
E F#m G#m A B C#m D#dim
A Bm C#m D E F#m G#dim
D Em F#m G A Bm C#dim
G Am Bm C D Em F#dim
C Dm Em F G Am Bdim
F Gm Am Bb C Dm Edim
Bb Cm Dm Eb F Gm Adim
Eb Fm Gm Ab Bb Cm Ddim
Ab Bbm Cm Db Eb Fm Gdim
Db Ebm Fm G Ab Bbm Cdim

If we list these chords starting and ending on the 6th degree, well have a list of all
the chords of the Aeolian minor scales.
E.g. A Aeolian Minor: A,B,C,D,E,F and G. Chords in A Aeolian: Am, Bdim, C, Dm, Em ,F and G.

Key (Aeolian minor)


i ii * III iv V VI VII
G#m A#dim B C#m D#m E F#
C#m D#dim E F#m G#m A B
F#m G#dim A Bm C#m D E
Bm C#dim D Em F#m G A
Em F#dim G Am Bm C D
Am Bdim C Dm Em F G
Dm Edim F Gm Am Bb C
Gm Adim Bb Cm Dm Eb F
Cm Ddim Eb Fm Gm Ab Bb
Fm Gdim Ab Bbm Cm Db Eb
Bbm Cdim Db Ebm Fm G Ab

We can see that the chords on the 1st, 4th and 5th note are now minor
and the chords on the 3rd, 6th and 7th degree are major.
nd
* The chord on the 2 degree is a dim chord. Contrary to the major scale, this odd chord will
sometimes be used, predominantly in jazz. It will be played as a 4note chord in a iiVi
progression in minor. The chord will be a m7b5 chord. In pop and rock we dont encounter this
chord.

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This is a list of 4note chords built on the notes of the Aeolian minor scales:

Key (Aeolian minor)


im7 iim7b5 III maj7 ivm7 vim7 VImaj7 VII7
G#m7 A#m7b5 Bmaj7 C#m7 D#m7 Emaj7 F#7
C#m7 D#m7b5 Emaj7 F#m7 G#m7 Amaj7 B7
F#m7 G#m7b5 Amaj7 Bm7 C#m7 Dmaj7 E7
Bm7 C#m7b5 Dmaj7 Em7 F#m7 Gmaj7 A7
Em7 F#m7b5 Gmaj7 Am7 Bm7 Cmaj7 D7
Am7 Bm7b5 Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7
Dm7 Em7b5 Fmaj7 Gm7 Am7 Bbmaj7 C7
Gm7 Am7b5 Bbmaj7 Cm7 Dm7 Ebmaj7 F7
Cm7 Dm7b5 Ebmaj7 Fm7 Gm7 Abmaj7 Bb7
Fm7 Gm7b5 Abmaj7 Bbm7 Cm7 Dbmaj7 Eb7
Bbm7 Cm7b5 Dbmaj7 Ebm7 Fm7 Gmaj7 Ab7

An Aeolian minor scale has:


a major second distance between tonic and major second = 2 x note (2 frets)
a flatted third ,, ,, ,, ,, flatted third = 3 x note (3 frets)
a perfect fourth ,, ,, ,, ,, perfect fourth = 5 x note (5 frets)
a perfect fifth ,, ,, ,, , , perfect fifth = 7 x note (7 frets)
a flatted sixth ,, ,, ,, ,, flatted sixth = 8 x note (8 frets)
a flatted seventh ,, ,, ,, ,, flatted seventh = 9x note (9 frets)

The Ionian Major scale has a formula: 2,2,1,2,2,2,1 that describes the intervals between each note of
the scale.
This formula makes for a certain type of sound, in this case the Doe a Deer, a Female Deer, Ray, a
drop of Golden sun, sound.
Each set of notes that has this formula will be an Ionian Major scale.

The Aeolian Minor scale also has a formula: 2,1,2,2,1,2,2. Each set of notes that has this formula will
sound like and is an Aeolian Minor scale.

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Alternative chords in a minor key


Depending on the flavor and sound a progression in minor is going for, youll see a number of
alternative chords show up.

In major keys we disregard the dim chord built on the 7th degree. This chord is a minor chord with a
flatted fifth in it, which is an unstable interval.
All other chords from the scale have a distance of 7 x note between the root of the chord and the
fifth of the chord.
This interval is called a perfect fifth and is a stable interval.
In a dim chord that distance is lowered with one half note to 6 x note; a flatted fifth.

In a minor key that dim chord is now the 2nd degree and this is an important chord.
In pop and rock music this dim chord is almost always altered.
The flatted fifth of the chord is raised note and becomes a perfect fifth.
The resulting chord is a regular minor chord.

In the key of Em the 2nd degree is an F#dim (triad) or F#m7b5 (4note) chord.
By raising the flatted fifth C we end up playing a C# which leads to the chords F#m / F#m7.

When we alter this note, weve actually changed the scale were playing.
Instead of playing a C note in the E Aeolian Minor scale (E,F#,G,A,B,C,D,E) were now playing a C#.
This leads to a different minor scale, called Dorian.
The notes of an E Dorian scale are E,F#,G,A,B,C#,D,E .

The C note in the E Aeolian Minor scale formed a flatted 6th interval with the tonic.
This interval is now enlarged to a major 6th C# , which is 9 x note.
Because this C# note is also part of other chords in that scale, these chords are also effected.

The C is part of the iv chord Am. If we raise that C to a C# we end up with an A or A7

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Getting rid of the odd dim chord on the 2nd degree in a minor scale means raising its fifth with note.
The consequence is that we end up with a iim and a IV chord.

Key (Dorian minor)


i ii * III iv V VI VII
G#m A#m B C# D#m E F#
C#m D#m E F# G#m A B
F#m G#m A B C#m D E
Bm C#m D E F#m G A
Em F#m G A Bm C D
Am Bm C D Em F G
Dm Em F G Am Bb C
Gm Am Bb C Dm Eb F
Cm Dm Eb F Gm Ab Bb
Fm Gm Ab Bb Cm Db Eb
Bbm Cm Db Eb Fm Gb Ab

Key (Dorian minor)


im7 iim7b5 III maj7 ivm7 vim7 VImaj7 VII7
G#m7 A#m7 maj7 7
D#m7 maj7 7
B C# E F#
C#m7 D#m7 Emaj7 F#7 G#m7 Amaj7 B7
F#m7 G#m7 Amaj7 B7 C#m7 Dmaj7 E7
Bm7 C#m7 Dmaj7 E7 F#m7 Gmaj7 A7
Em7 F#m7 Gmaj7 A7 Bm7 Cmaj7 D7
Am7 Bm7 Cmaj7 D7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7
Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7 Am7 Bbmaj7 C7
Gm7 Am7 Bbmaj7 C7 Dm7 Ebmaj7 F7
Cm7 Dm7 Ebmaj7 F7 Gm7 Abmaj7 Bb7
Fm7 Gm7 Abmaj7 Bb7 Cm7 Dbmaj7 Eb7
Bbm7 Cm7 Dbmaj7 Eb7 Fm7 Gbmaj7 Ab7

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Replacing the Vm with a V major chord in a Minor scale.


In the chapter about major chords weve seen that the V I progression is the strongest progression
we know in music. In the Aeolian and Dorian minor keys, the V chord is a minor chord.
Weve seen that we can replace that minor chord by its major counterpart, to create a tension /
resolution that is stronger. To do this we have to raise the flatted third in the Vm chord with note
and make it into a major third.

In the key of Em this would mean playing a B7 chord instead of a Bm.


Sometimes both the Bm and B chord are used in the same song. The stronger tension / resolution is
often held back till the end of the chord progression to get a more satisfying return to the home base.

In pop, rock and folk music altering that chord does NOT have an effect on the other scale notes.
The flatted third of the Vm chord is temporarily raised. In the rest of the progression we dont change
that specific note.

In the key of Em we raise the D note in the Bm to a D#. That D is also part of the G chord on the IIIrd
degree. We do not raise that particular D note, because the resulting Gaug chord would be unstable.

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Chord options in minor keys :

Key (Aeolian minor Triads)


i ii * III iv V VI VII
G#m A#dim B C#m D#m / D# E F#
C#m D#dim E F#m G#m / G# A B
F#m G#dim A Bm C#m / C# D E
Bm C#dim D Em F#m / F# G A
Em F#dim G Am Bm / B C D
Am Bdim C Dm Em / E F G
Dm Edim F Gm Am / A Bb C
Gm Adim Bb Cm Dm / D Eb F
Cm Ddim Eb Fm Gm / G Ab Bb
Fm Gdim Ab Bbm Cm / C Db Eb
Bbm Cdim Db Ebm Fm / F G Ab

Key (Aeolian minor 4 Note Chords)


im7 iim7b5 III maj7 ivm7 vim7 VImaj7 VII7
7
A#m7b5 maj7 7
D#m7 /D#7 maj7 7
G#m B C#m E F#
C#m7 D#m7b5 Emaj7 F#m7 G#m7 / G#7 Amaj7 B7
F#m7 G#m7b5 Amaj7 Bm7 C#m7 / C#7 Dmaj7 E7
Bm7 C#m7b5 Dmaj7 Em7 F#m7 /F#7 Gmaj7 A7
Em7 F#m7b5 Gmaj7 Am7 Bm7 / B7 Cmaj7 D7
Am7 Bm7b5 Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 / E7 Fmaj7 G7
Dm7 Em7b5 Fmaj7 Gm7 Am7 / A7 Bbmaj7 C7
Gm7 Am7b5 Bbmaj7 Cm7 Dm7 / D7 Ebmaj7 F7
Cm7 Dm7b5 Ebmaj7 Fm7 Gm7 / G7 Abmaj7 Bb7
Fm7 Gm7b5 Abmaj7 Bbm7 Cm7 / C7 Dbmaj7 Eb7
Bbm7 Cm7b5 Dbmaj7 Ebm7 Fm7 / F7 Gbmaj7 Ab7

Key (Dorian minor Triads)


i ii * III iv V VI VII
G#m A#m B C# D#m / D# E F#
C#m D#m E F# G#m / G# A B
F#m G#m A B C#m / C# D E
Bm C#m D E F#m / F# G A
Em F#m G A Bm / B C D
Am Bm C D Em / E F# G
Dm Em F G Am / A Bb C
Gm Am Bb C Dm / D Eb F
Cm Dm Eb F Gm / G Ab Bb
Fm Gm Ab Bb Cm / C Db Eb
Bbm Cm Db Eb Fm / F Gb Ab

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Key (Dorian minor 4 Note Chords)


im7 iim7b5 III maj7 ivm7 vim7 VImaj7 VII7
7 7 maj7 7 7 maj7 7
G#m A#m B C# D#m / D#7 E F#
C#m7 D#m7 Emaj7 F#7 G#m7 / G#7 Amaj7 B7
F#m7 G#m7 Amaj7 B7 C#m7 / C#7 Dmajj7 E7
Bm7 C#m7 Dmaj7 E7 F#m7 / F7 Gmaj7 A7
Em7 F#m7 Gmaj7 A7 Bm7 / B7 Cmaj7 D7
Am7 Bm7 Cmaj7 D7 Em7 / E7 Fmaj7 G7
Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7 Am7 / A7 Bbmaj7 C7
Gm7 Am7 Bbmaj7 C7 Dm7 / D7 Ebmaj7 F7
Cm7 Dm7 Ebmaj7 F7 Gm7 / G7 Abmaj7 Bb7
Fm7 Gm7 Abmaj7 Bb7 Cm7 / C7 Dbmaj7 Eb7
Bbm7 Cm7 Dbmaj7 Eb7 Fm7 / F7 Gbmaj7 Ab7

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Changing keys (modulation)


A key change means that the song gets a different home base; it feels like the song has a different
I chord than it started out on.
We tend to speak of modulation if this is the case for a longer period in the chord progression.

The most common key change is to one of the other chords in the original key.
If the original key is C, the chords in the key are C,Dm,Em,F,G,Am,Bdim .
Clich modulations are to the key of Dm,Em,F,G and Am.

Songs in pop and rock music dont often modulate to more than one other key.
A verse could be in one key and the chorus could be in another or at the end of the song it modulates
up, to create some extra excitement.

Most of the songs written on guitar do not modulate.

This is due to the fact that modulation almost always involves playing more bar chords.
Most songwriters in country, folk and pop tend to steer away from using too many bar chords,
because theyre harder to play.
You need more strength and during your singing youll need to keep looking at the neck of the guitar
to make sure your bar chord is positioned in the right fret.

Most acoustic guitar players like to have open strings to their chords; it makes the guitar ring through
more. The bar chord creates a more closed sound, that will be featured more on an electric guitar.

There are several types of modulation.


If you change to a key that only differs one or two notes with the original key, you modulate to a
near key. The amount of sharps (#) and flats (b) is almost the same.
You can even modulate to a key that has the same amount of sharps and flats : the relative minor or
relative major.
A distant key does not have a lot of notes in common with the original key.
The more distant a key is to the original key, the more unusual the modulation will sound.

Modulating from C to D is more pleasant to the ear than modulating form C to C#;
D has only 2 different notes from C and C# has almost no notes in common with C.

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Modulation to the relative minor or major

Weve seen that the chord on the tonic of the key were in can be substituted by the vim chord.
This is because that chord on the 6th degree has 2 notes in common with the I chord.
The scale that is built on that 6th degree is an Aeolian minor scale, which holds the exact same notes
as the original major scale, but starts and ends on the 6th note from that scale.
In C this would mean playing the C major scale (C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C), starting and ending on the A note.

The chords that we can construct with the Aeolian minor scale notes are the exact same chords as in
the original major key.
The Am Aeolian scale is the relative minor to the C Ionian major scale.
The C Ionian major scale is the relative major to the A Aeolian minor scale.

Changing keys between the major scale and its relative minor is the most common modulation.
The chord progression will have the same chords as in the original key, but it feels like there is a
different home base.

A song in the key of C would modulate to Am, vise versa.

If this happens for only a few bars we call this temporary modulation.
In many cases its ambiguous in which of the two keys a song is played, because the chords are picked
from the same group.
Most common modulation per key (to relative major/minor):

I chord Modulate to vim chord The vim chord is built on the 6th degree of the major
scale.
C Am

G Em The I chord is built on the 3rd degree of the Aeolian


minor scale.
D Bm

A F#m

E C#m

F Dm

Bb Gm

Eb Cm

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How to modulate

It feels like weve modulated to a different key if for a longer period in the chord progression, the
chords revolve around a different home base.

Staying on one chord that is not the Ichord for a longer period of time can achieve this feeling.
In a progression in the key of C, this would happen if you play an Am for four or eight bars in a row.
Am would start to feel as the new key.
This feel of a new home base would also happen if Am is played and the other chords that follow have
a IV or V relationship to the new home base, instead of the original key.

In the key of C the IV and V chord are F and G. Both these chords have a strong relationship with
the I chord.
All the other chords (iim, iiim and vim) can be used as substitutes for the I,IV and V. Their relationship
with the original tonic is weaker.

By moving to a new home base (modulating) these relationships change.


The new key will have a different IV and V chord and have different strong / weak relationships.
Youll feel a new home base when a song moves from the original key to its relative major or minor
and expresses the new key, by making use of its new IV and V chord.

In a progression in C this would mean playing an Am chord and having the chord progression revolve
around Am, Dm, and Em. These chords would start to feel as a new I, IV and V chord in the key of Am.

The same could happen vise versa.


If the original key is Am, the chords in the progression would predominantly be Am, Dm and Em.
These are the I,IV and V in the key of Am.
You would feel like youve modulated, if the chord progression revolves around C, F and G for a
number of bars. These are the I, IV and V chords in the relative major key of Am; C major.

Note: weve seen that there are more than one minor scales that all have alternative chords.
The most common being the V chord made major (originally its a minor chord), the IV chord made major (was minor) and
the II diminished chord made minor.
In chord progressions in a minor key, these alternative chords can show up.
All the above applies to all these minor scales, their chords and alternative chords in the minor progressions.

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The V I modulation
A modulation is often introduced by preceding a new Ichord with its V chord.

If were modulating to the relative minor (C Am) we can precede the new Ichord by its V chord,
which is the iii chord in the original key (3rd degree in C = Em; Em = 5th degree in Am).
This chord is almost always made major (or even dominant) to make the modulation feel stronger.
The Em chord would be replaced by an E major or an E7 chord.

In a minor key you can accentuate a modulation to the relative major by preceding it with its V chord,
which is the VII chord in minor.
In the key of Am the relative major is C. Its V chord is a G.

Intended Modulation I vim C Am im III Am C

Precede with its V I iiim vim C Em Am im VI III Am G C

Accentuate I III vim C E Am same same


modulation

Accentuate I III7 vim C E7 Am im VI7 III Am G7 C


modulation more

The V I modulation where the V chord is major or dominant feels more satisfying and makes the key
change more obvious.

A V chord can resolve to a major OR minor chord

A V chord can resolve to a major OR a minor chord.


E resolves to A because its the V chord in the key of A major. But E or E7 can also function as a V chord
in the key of Am.

Originally the V chord in a minor key is minor (Em in the key of Am).
But we can alter that chord to a major chord to make the progression stronger.
This means that E can resolve to A or Am.

This means that any V chord can resolve to a major or minor chord.
This feature can be used to modulate to a different key.
Any major chord can function as a V chord to introduce a modulation
A dominant chord is even stronger

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In the progressions above we modulated to the relative minor / major by means of a major chord
(dominant chord) that was the V chord in the new key.
If the target chord can be altered from major to minor and vise versa we end up with these possible
modulations:

Intended Modulation I vim C Am im III Am C


I VI CA im iiim Am Cm

Precede with its V I iiim vim C Em Am im VI III Am G C


I iiim VI C Em A im VI iiim Am G Cm

Accentuate I III vim C E Am same same


modulation I III VI CEA

Accentuate I III7 vim C E7 Am im VI7 III Am G7 C


modulation more I III7 VI C E7 A im VI7 III Am G7 Cm

Modulating one whole note up

Another common modulation used in pop / rock music is by raising the key one whole note (2 frets),
e.g. from C to D. This is predominantly done in major.

If we use the V7I progression to establish the key, the progression would become:
I VI7 II in which the II chord would be major and start functioning as a new I chord.
In the original key the II chord is minor.
In the key of C this modulation would be achieved in this progression: C A7 D .

Modulating to the Tonic Minor

Moving to the tonic minor is another clich modulation.


E.g. from D to Dm .

Because the V chord is often made major in minor key, that V chord will be the exact same chord as in
the major key.
This means that using a V Im progression does not clearly establish the new key.
If a IVm chord is added to the progression, the modulation is made even clearer.

Other modulations
There are a number of other modulation used in modern pop and jazz music. The more musically
sophisticated a song sounds, the more complex the modulations become.

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